Pierre Brooks II welcomes pressure, fast pace as he earns his place at Michigan State
When making the jump from high school to college, players often cite the speed of the game or, perhaps, getting acclimated to life away from home as some of the biggest adjustments.
Those apply for Michigan State freshman Pierre Brooks II, as well, but he’s already noticed something else during his short time on campus — he can never take a break.
“In high school I used to jog a lot,” Brooks admitted. “But everything here is just fast-paced, fast moving. You’ve just got to keep up.”
Welcome to the highest level of college basketball, Mr. Brooks. A dominant player at the high school level — Michigan’s Mr. Basketball from Detroit Douglass averaged 33.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals while leading Douglass to its first state championship in program history.
Now, Brooks — along with fellow freshmen Max Christie and Jaden Akins — is tasked with helping get the Spartans back to a championship level after last season’s disappointing regular season followed by a loss in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.
“Our main goal is a national championship and that's every year,” Brooks said. “I think that the team we have now, we have all the right pieces and all the right things that fit together to win a national championship.
“And me, personally, it’s just always having high hopes. I mean, I see all these Final Four (banners) in the practice gym and I want to put another one in there. I just want to be another (player) that puts one up there, so I just keeping staying positive with the guys.”
As his high school accolades point out, Brooks not only has the game to be a major contributor — a four-star recruit, Brooks was rated the No. 57 overall prospect in the nation by 247Sports — but he has the right makeup, too.
Well, the right makeup for Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans have always made a point of recruiting players they believe fit their culture and their system, and Brooks, who held a 4.2 grade-point-average in high school, might fit that mold perfectly.
“I think Pierre Brooks has a chance to have a phenomenal career here,” Izzo said on signing day last November, “because of the things we value: Toughness, the ability to shoot the ball from long, long range, and play multiple positions.”
Where Brooks fits when Michigan State opens the 2021-22 season remains to be seen. He said he’s been working mostly at the shooting guard and small forward positions in early practices, two positions that seem most likely for the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder to see the most action.
Of course, Brooks probably could play the power forward spot in a smaller lineup, but as a freshman jumping into a position group that includes Christie and senior Gabe Brown, he’ll have to fight for his minutes. That’s just fine with Brooks, who thinks his background playing in Detroit will only help him, and in turn, the Spartans.
“With me being where I from and just being from Detroit and just having all the pressure and all that,” Brooks said, “I think it's good to have that sort of pressure. It always keeps the chip on my shoulder and every time I step on the floor, I’m just proving people wrong and erasing any doubts people have about me.”
Brooks knows he’ll be pushed, too. The son of a coach, Brooks understands what it’s like to play for a demanding coach like Izzo. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons he was the first player to commit to his class, eventually helping to land Christie and Akins.
“I know Coach Izzo and he's going to coach me well,” Brooks said. “He’s going to coach me to the fullest, so I think that having a tough coach is definitely gonna push me to the highest level for sure.”
As for how that’s gone so far, Brooks flashed a smile.
“He’s definitely been on my case since I got here,” Brooks said. “But that's the kind of coach he is, and that’s what I signed up for. So, I know I’ll get the best coaching out of him and he's going to get the best player out of me.”
It all adds up to a good start for Brooks. Of course, he understands there will be some growing pains along the way.
In addition to getting used to a faster game and a quicker pace, Brooks is getting used to college life and being away from home. No longer can he just turn to Mom and dad when he needs something. Instead, he’s leaning on his teammates, namely Brown, who Brooks said has been outstanding in helping adjust to life off the court.
Brooks singled out junior Malik Hall and sophomore A.J. Hoggard, as well, when it comes to early leadership and has been especially impressed with Hall and Brown on the court.
“I think Malik Hall has definitely made a big jump, and Gabe has definitely made a big jump,” Brooks said. “Malik Hall, the stuff that I've seen on TV and then when I see it up close is crazy. He definitely has a nice skill set on him, for sure.”
Brooks believes he has one, too. So does the coaching staff.
It might take some time for Brooks to get heavy minutes, but early on, things are going well. He’s focusing on becoming a better defender and getting his shot off when not creating offense on his own.
“I'm more of an off-the-dribble shooter,” Brooks said, “So it’s getting to my spots and catching and shooting. It’s one of the big keys that I think that I’ll have success in.”
Izzo and Co. are expecting that, too. And as long as Brooks doesn’t go back to jogging, there’s a good chance those expectations will be met.